Looking for things to do in southeast Michigan for families? This list has you covered! I grew up in Michigan and moved to Ohio for a few years after meeting and marrying Dave, and then we moved back up to the mitten state.
There’s truly something for everyone in Michigan. If you like nature there is biking, hiking, kayaking, canoeing and more. If you crave city-life Detroit has you covered with baseball, football, and basketball games, concerts, award winning restaurants, and events happening both day and night.
There’s also everything in between! That’s why I was excited to put this list together. If you live in southeast Michigan or are planning a trip to visit, our area offers a lot of variety and this list will help you plan the perfect day out, weekend road trip, or vacation adventure! Enjoy!
Belle Isle is one of the Detroit area’s best kept secrets. It’s a 982 acre island park and it is one of my favorite places to visit, that’s why it tops the list. It has a beautiful fountain, a gorgeous view of the Detroit skyline, lovely parks that are always busy with picnics and family reunions. There are also a number of activities and events on Belle Isle as well. See below.
The Anna Scrips Whitcomb Conservatory is located on Belle Isle and it’s full of incredible exotic and rare plants from around the world. Did you ever think you would see a palm tree in the city of Detroit? Well, now you can. There are a wide variety of flowering and fruit plants and trees as well as succulents too. And the Lily Pond Garden is not to be missed.
The Aquarium on Belle Isle is the oldest aquarium in the country! It has one of the largest collections of air breathing fish in the world and it houses the only known collection of all seven species of gar in North America. The building itself is gorgeous, it was designed by Albert Kahn. The entrance is an arch with 2 spitting dolphins and the inside showcases green opalite tiles lining the ceiling. It gives a beautiful underwater effect.
The Dossin Great Lakes Museum is a fun museum for families full of ship history and complete with interactive exhibits. When you first enter you step into the reconstructed gentleman’s room from the City of Detroit III. The exhibit features beautiful woodwork with fine detail and colorful stained glass. The interactive exhibits are full of fun. Kids can try their hand at driving a freighter simulation and then step into the pilot house of a real freighter. They can also experience the thrill of speedboat racing down the Detroit River through a simulator and more hands-on exhibits.
The Detroit Kite Festival is a fun family festival that takes place in July each year on Belle Isle. It’s a can’t miss for anyone who loves kites. There are professional kite flying teams and everyone has the opportunity to bring their own kites and fly them as well. There are crafts and activities for kids and food trucks too. It’s an unforgettable sight to see the sky filled with kites on a warm July day.
The Detroit Institute of Arts is where you need to go if you are an art lover, Also known as the DIA, with over 65,000 pieces it has one of the most significant collections of art in the United States. It also offers over 100 galleries, exhibits, workshops, events, games, and classes. It also has Lumin, a fascinating way to learn more about the art through augmented reality.
The Detroit Historical Museum is a fascinating place that is completely free! Outside is Legends Plaza which displays handprints of famous Detroiters including Barry Sanders, Alice Cooper, Joe Dumars, Lily Tomlin and many more. Inside it is full of both signature and traveling exhibitions. The Streets of Old Detroit exhibit enables you to step into the past and the Kid Rock Music Lab feels like a bit of a blast into the future. Also, America’s Motor City Exhibit is captivating with a look at automobiles from the past and wrapping up with the automated Cadillac Body Drop which gives you a close up look at how cars are made.
The Detroit Zoo is full of fun for families and animal lovers alike. In fact, the new Polk Penguin Conservation Center is one of the largest facilities for penguins in the world and the Arctic Ring of Life is one of the largest polar bear habitats in the world. You can find a wide variety of animals here as well as a wide variety of fun. There’s also a butterfly house, a chance to feed the giraffes, a 4-D theater, a Sponge Bob simulation ride, and more.
Hitsville USA is the home of the Motown Museum where Barry Gordy established Motown Records in 1959. You can actually stand where the Temptations, Four Tops, and Supreme recorded some of their most popular hits. The museum is full of memorabilia, artifacts, and photographs. You visit the museum through an interactive guided tour where you learn the history and feel the past come to life.
The Eastern Market is a fabulous place to visit for ingredients, food, and even gift ideas and treasures. There are actually 4 markets. The Saturday Market has 225 food vendors. The Sunday Market showcases the work of local artists, cooks, musicians, and more, there are special events like the Detroit Festival of Books, Taco Showdown, and more. The Tuesday Marketing is a scaled-down version of the Sunday Market and the Thursday Night Market is full of food, drinks, music, art, shopping, and fun.
The Woodward Dream Cruise is a must-attend event if you or anyone in your family has any interest in cars. It’s the world’s biggest cruise event that draws 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars from around the world. It spans a 16-mile radius of Woodward Avenue through 9 communities. Anyone can cruise. Old cars, new cars, futuristic cars, even the Batmobile parade up and down the street throughout the day. It’s fun to watch and many of the communities also have family-friendly events and activities to coincide as well.
The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation is another place for automobile lovers as well as history buffs and fans of innovations and families alike. This museum is full of historic automobiles from the Henry Ford Quadricycle to the bus where Rosa Parks took a stand, to the Presidential Vehicles Exhibit, and much more. But automobiles are just a small part of the museum, you can also explore the Wright Brothers innovations, Buckminister Fuller’s circular Dynamix House, a gorgeous glass gallery, a historical furniture display, an interactive assembly-line exhibit and much, more more.
Maker Faire Detroit is an event over one weekend in the summer at The Henry Ford. It is the epicenter of creativity where you’ll find art, inventions, innovations, and more. There is an are full of the wildest styles of bicycles you’ve ever seen. Some have wheels taller than a truck that you sit between, others are two bikes put together backwards, some bounce up and down as you pedal and you can’t help but to fall apart laughing while riding (or watching others ride!). There’s also a 40-foot Ferris wheel, nitrogen ice cream, a Tesla Coil, a Power Racing Series, screenprinting, a bowling ball powered skeeball game and lots more. Be sure to bring your walking shoes to this even because every time you think you’ve seen it all, there’s something else to discover around the corner.
Greenfield Village is where you can step back in time and experience history first hand on over 80 acres. You can actually stand in the lab where Thomas Edison created the lightbulb and in the workshop of the Wright Brothers. You can visit Main Street and learn from shopkeepers, watch historic performances, visit Liberty Craftworks and watch a glassblowing demonstration, and even take a ride in a real Model T. There’s so much to do, see, and learn in Greenfield Village I recommend setting aside an entire day to explore it all.
Blue Water Sandfest is the perfect place for anyone who loves sandcastles. It takes place near the Blue Water Bridge which crosses over to Canada. It was rated as one of the top 10 sandcastle festivals in the U.S. Sandcastle artists come from all over the world to compete and their sculptures are mindblowing! If you can dream it, they can probably sculpt it! There is also live music, food, speed building competitions, and a lighthouse to climb.
The Port Huron To Mackinaw Sailboat Race is such a fun event that if you are traveling to the Blue Water area be sure to add it to your list. It’s a sailboat race from Port Huron, Michigan up to Mackinaw Island. The sailboats come in a couple of nights early and you can walk up and down the boardwalks and look them over. There is even a Family Night where they have festivities and fun for kids prior to the start of the race. Then on race day, you watch the boats parade on out to the St. Clair River as they get ready to start and if you are lucky they will put up their spinnakers for a photographic start.
These are some of my favorite places in southeast Michigan and they encompass a little bit of everything. Ultimately it is all about family fun and these destinations and events are designed for just that. So get out there and enjoy some time together and make some memories along the way.